The European Championships 2013 takes place in Herning, Denmark in just a week – and it is time to take a closer look at some of the favorites for the titles! Individually it is Sweden’s Rolf-Göran Bengtsson that is defending champion – in 2011 he won the gold medal in Madrid on Ninja La Silla, who is now enjoying his retirement in Mexico. The silver went to Carsten-Otto Nagel on the amazing championship performer Corradina, who two years later yet again is a part of the German team. Nick Skelton and Carlo 273 – now seen under Sergio Alvarez Moya – won the bronze, but Nick will not be seen at this year’s Europeans as Big Star is targeted for the Olympics in Rio and thus saved from the Europeans this year.
The championships begin on Tuesday the 20th of August with a one-round speed class at the end of which results are converted into points which count towards both individual and team scores. The first round of the team competition takes place the following afternoon and the top 10 teams go through to the second round on Thursday evening when the medals will be decided.
Individual scores will be picked up along the way, before the horses have a rest day on Friday 23rd of August before the top 25 go through to the individual final on Saturday afternoon when the new European Champion will be crowned at the end of another two exciting rounds.
Rolf has a lot to live up to at this year’s championships, but the question is whether Casall Ask will be up for the task and whether or not he can fill Ninja’s shoes at such a big occasion. Casall Ask does have some championship experience; he jumped at the Olympics last year as well as the World Cup Final in Den Bosch – but he has never completed an entire championship from A to Z yet. He has plenty of other top Grand Prix results to show to over the last years though, and is certainly one that has proven himself in the biggest classes. Casall has been jumped sparingly towards Herning, and his last big show was Falsterbo where he was third with the Swedish team in the Nations Cup.
Carsten-Otto Nagel and Corradina must yet again be considered one of the hottest medal candidates. Corradina has jumped fantastic lately and as usual the 15 year old mare gets her form right just ahead of the championships. The pair was on the second placed German team in the Nations Cup in Rome after four faults in the first round and a clear in the second, and they contributed big time to the Nations Cup win in Falsterbo with their double clear. Corradina went on to jump amazing in Münster where she ended third in the Grand Prix after two clear rounds. Carsten-Otto is for sure hungry for a good result after missing out on the Olympics last year, so all looks set for more success for this super couple.
But there are many top names in Herning that should have great chances for the medals. One of them is former European Champion from 2009 at Windsor – Kevin Staut. The French rider will partner up with the amazing Silvana *HDC, who was on the silver medal team for France in both Kentucky and Madrid – and thus already showing that she is a serious championship contender. In the end of July she won a 1.50 class in La Coruna, proving that her great form from Rotterdam – where she was third in the Grand Prix and in the Nations Cup – continues.
France also has a serious medal contender in Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express *HDC, who will do their first championship together as the stallion missed out on the Olympics last year due to injury. Now they are back on track though, and jumped to third place in the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen in July as well as to the top in the Longines Grand Prix in La Baule in May.
Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat is always one for the big stuff – especially when he jumps Nino des Buissonnets, as he will in Herning. These two really have nothing left to prove, with gold from London last year and two vice-champion World Cup titles from 2012 and 2013. Although they have not had any top results since the World Cup Final, they should certainly not be overlooked. Both of them have a tendency to bounce back very strongly after a time away from the spotlight.
Great Britain has two great cards on their hands as they send Scott Brash and Ben Maher to Herning. Brash will ride his team gold medal-horse from London, Hello Sanctos. This is a pair that could go all the way to the top in Denmark; they already have championship experience and have developed a true partnership – in the Nations Cup in Dublin they were double clear to help Britain win, and they were third in the Grand Prix in Chantilly, second in the Grand Prix in Estoril and fifth in the Grand Prix in London. This pair should be looked out for by their competitors.
The same goes for Ben Maher and Cella. These two have been on fire since they hooked up in the autumn of 2012. The past weekend they ended third in the Grand Prix in Dublin, as well as being on the winning British Nations Cup team after jumping a second clear round. This amazing pair also won the Warsteiner Preis in Aachen in June as well as the Grand Prix in London. Ben and Cella are definitely a pair that can fight for the medals.
As world number one Christian Ahlmann must be considered a favorite. The German rider will be jumping Codex One at the championships, who he recently was second with in the Grand Prix in Chantilly and who also was on the third placed German Nations Cup team in Aachen. The remaining two riders on the German team cannot be ruled out either; both Ludger Beerbaum and Daniel Deusser have medal chances.
As for Holland they lack perhaps their two best combinations at the championships, but one pair that might shine should their form continue is Jeroen Dubbeldam and Utascha SFN. Having struggled with finding her form over the winter, the 12 year old mare has returned with a bang for the outdoor season – winning a 1.50 class in Wiesbaden, the Grand Prix in Arnhem as well as being third in both the Nations Cup and the Grand Prix in Falsterbo. Utsacha SFN has championship experience, and this time she might be ready for the medals – should Jeroen get the best out of her during those important days in Herning. A former Olympic Champion himself, Jeroen has all the skills in the world.
Then there are of course the outsiders and the surprises. A guess is that Dirk Demeersman and Bufero van het Panishof can surprise; the two have done really well over the past months – producing double clears for Belgium in both the Nations Cup in Aachen and in Bratislava. Rolex Grand Prix-runner up Janika Sprunger is a fighter that should be counted with despite her young age, and so is Angelica Augustsson who has showed tremendous form on Mic Mac du Tillard picking up one win after the other this summer. Another Swedish pair in this category is Jens Fredricson and Lunatic. Having won the Grand Prix in Falsterbo, they come to Herning full of confidence and will for sure fight for a place on the podium and in the history books.
Team wise, Germany – defending champions from Madrid – looks strong as always. With Carsten-Otto Nagel, Christian Ahlmann, Daniel Deusser and Ludger Beerbaum on the team the chances of a new medal should be extremely good.
The same goes for France and Great Britain who send top teams to Herning. France took silver in Madrid, and Great Britain bronze – and both teams have a good shot at more medals in Denmark. In addition to their “youngsters” Brash and Maher, Great Britain has three veterans that complete their team; William Funnell, Robert Smith and Michael Whitaker. As for France, they have the experienced Bosty on the team in addition to Delaveau and Staut, as well as Eugenie Angot and Aymeric de Ponnat.
Belgium, Holland and Switzerland should for sure not be ruled out in the fight for the medals either. Belgium has showed top form both in the Nations Cup in Aachen and Bratislava, and Holland has also had very good Nations Cup season – and both teams should thus arrive in Herning with enough inspiration to reach a medal. The same goes for Switzerland who ended on top of the overall standings in the Europe division 1 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup this season.
It will all be decided next week as more showjumping history will be written in Herning, Denmark.
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